The 35-Year-Old Dish “Orange Chicken” Once Brought Fire To American Chinese Food

What's the deal with Panda Express's iconic Orange Chicken dish's persistent appeal? Is it its unexpected origins or its distinctive flavor combination?

The Enduring Allure of Orange Chicken: A 35-Year Culinary Journey

What's the deal with Panda Express's iconic Orange Chicken dish's persistent appeal? Is it its unexpected origins, its distinctive flavor combination, or its capacity to transcend cultural boundaries?

We go on a gastronomic adventure to investigate the mysterious rise of Orange Chicken in this blog post. We'll learn about the influences that went into its production, the changes made to suit American preferences, and the ongoing discussions regarding its authenticity.


Celebrate 35 Years of Chinese-American Fusion

According to the U.S. “World Journal” comprehensive report, the American Chinese fast food chain “Panda Express” signature dish, “Orange Chicken,” turned 35 years old on the 15th.

"Orange Chicken," as it is commonly called, is a traditional creation of Chinese cuisine in the United States. The "Panda Express" "Orange Chicken" has played a major role in the long-running Chinese takeout trend in the United States.

The 35-Year-Old Dish “Orange Chicken” Once Brought Fire To American Chinese Food

Panda Express Orange Chicken looks simple but is a fusion of local Chinese flavors and American ingredients. 35 years after its introduction, it is still Panda Express’ best-selling dish.

Last year, it sold more than 110 million pounds, accounting for about one-third of Panda Express’ total sales. And it all started in Hawaii in 1987.

“Inspired by the island’s citrus and the locals’ love of meat, the dish is Inspired by the island’s citrus and local love of meat. This dish combines the traditional flavors of Chinese Huaiyang cuisine with a rich, sweet, spicy sauce on top of the classic American fried chicken.

Andy Gao initially used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts for the aged chicken. Still, he soon discovered that Americans prefer bite-sized, boneless, skinless chicken.

To accommodate American tastes, he removed the dried chilies to avoid making them too spicy. The dish “honors its roots while mixing culture, ingredients, and flavors,” says Jimmy Wan, chef of culinary innovation at Panda Express.

“Panda Express was founded in 1983 by Ching Cheong and Peggy Chiang. Born in 1948 in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, China, to a chef’s father, Cheng moved to Taiwan in 1949 with his parents, immigrated to Japan in 1963, and then to the United States in 1966.“

The first Panda Express was opened in Glendale in 1983 and now has more than 2,200 locations, making it the largest family-owned Chinese restaurant chain in the United States.

American Chinese Cuisine: Exploring Evolution, Innovation, and Shifting Perspectives

Jimmy Wang pointed out that Panda Express is the first experience of Chinese cuisine for many Americans, and they often try to become customers of Panda Express’s 2019 launch of spicy chicken. 

The first large-scale introduction of Sichuan pepper spices in the United States and spicy products.” Last summer, Panda Express partnered with Beyond Meat to launch vegan orange chicken, which sold out in less than two weeks during its limited release in Los Angeles.


Brown, a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Michigan and a scholar of Chinese food history, said the concept of “authentic” is constantly evolving.

The history of “Orange Chicken” has inevitably become a target. “For many Chinese, the greasy and less-than-tasty Orange chicken reinforces the impression that ‘Chinese food is just cheap food,'” Brown said. Brown said, “But is the problem the food itself? Or the various narratives associated with the food?”

Jimmy Wang believes that the obsession with “authentic” devalues the long history behind American Chinese food and the innovations immigrant chefs have made to adapt to American diners’ tastes.

Panda Express products may not meet traditional Chinese cuisine standards but still reflect “authentic” Chinese cooking. “American Chinese food It’s a different cuisine than traditional Chinese food; it’s original to the immigrant experience, the Asian experience, and the Chinese food experience in America.”


Fusion food has always been popular, and orange chicken, the famous dish that has captured American hearts and minds for 35 years, is a prime example of this.

Orange Chicken, which originated in Hawaii as a creative fusion of Chinese and American elements, has grown to represent American Chinese food. It is nonetheless a monument to the adaptation and inventiveness of immigrant cooks, even in the face of arguments regarding its authenticity.

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